5 Years

I have many ex-boyfriends in my past. Yet somehow, it’s *this* one — the Bulgarian — who left his indelible mark on my soul. It’s not to say I never think about the others, I do — but for the ones that were important, I somehow have stayed in friendly contact with them. And thus, they never died to me. But the Bulgarian… our parting was so harsh, so final… and so necessary… he has become this ghost in my mind that haunts me. It is this express forbidden contact that keeps him alive. But slowly my memory is fading…I wait for the day when I no longer remember him per se and all his mannerisms and quirks and everything about him that made him be him and kept me in love even though it was the most wrong toxic love I could experience. One day, I will only remember that there was this person in my life with his name and from his country that drove his car and lived on his street and  that he drove me completely mad with jealousy. Everything else I will forget. Maybe even some of those details will be forgotten too.

5 years ago, I begged him to let me go; to either love me, or set me free. On a Friday night, we drove to the top of Bernal Hill. It was raining. He told me, “I let you go.” I cried a watershed of tears that more than matched the winter rains of San Francisco. He drove me home and as I was about to leave the car, he turned to me and said, “I don’t know.” Even then, he couldn’t decide. It would be another year and a half before our relationship would truly, finally end.

The next morning, 5 years ago from today, his ex-girlfriend arrived from Bulgaria. I rode my bike to see the sea lions on Fisherman’s Wharf as I did every Saturday back then. Within weeks, I had met someone else. Within months, I had moved abroad. Yet, few days went by when I didn’t hear from him. We wouldn’t truly end until August 2006 — after I had moved back to San Francisco from the Netherlands — when I threatened to tell his ex-girlfriend who had become his current girlfriend what was going on between us. I wanted to be let go so that I might have the freedom to love someone else. Every time I had tried to walk away, he had come after me and reined me back in.

A month later was September 2006…the 5 year anniversary of September 11th which so harshly brought to an end the life I lived and loved in NYC. Every year, I wanted the anniversary to hurt less. I didn’t want my whole adult life contextualized in such a singular harsh moment. The first time I felt truly happy again after that day was with the Bulgarian. And maybe… often I think the reason why he left such an indelible mark on me wasn’t just because he was who he was and the chemistry we had between us, but because he gave me a new life as I was trying to adjust not only to a world, but also my own self, that were both forever changed.

And now it’s been almost 5 years since he first tried to let me go. And it’s been 5 years since I tried to make it on my own. I learned to do what I think is right, rather than what others think is right. I learned how to draw boundaries between myself and other people. I got married to the Ukrainian who loves me for me and has neither uncertainties nor maybes in his feelings towards me. The new life the Bulgarian gave me? I took it and made it my own.

Happy 5 years anniversary Mr Bulgarian. I would thank you for letting me go, but I’ve long since realized that it was I who broke free. So I can only thank you for the cool times we had together. And I wish you well.

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